The headline, above the flattering photograph of a Man of Gravitas, reads: "The Reinvention of the Reverend Al: From Tawana to Obama, What Sharpton's Longevity Says About Race in America."
It's good to be the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of America's pre-eminent race-hustlers and demagogues. The word "shameless" doesn't do him justice. The word "whitewash" understates the gushing makeover accorded him by Newsweek.
The article discusses, but minimizes, the how and why of Sharpton's rise to national prominence: He falsely accused a man of rape. Almost 20 years ago, Sharpton became famous by championing the cause of a black teenager named Tawana Brawley, who, it turned out, lied when she claimed that she'd been abducted and sexually assaulted by whites. Sharpton not only offered Tawana Brawley up as a sympathetic victim of America's alleged pervasive racism, he accused Steven Pagones, a white assistant district attorney, of committing the crime.
A grand jury found that Tawana Brawley fabricated the whole thing. Sharpton not only refused to apologize, he dared Pagones to sue him for defamation. Pagones obliged. A jury unanimously found Sharpton liable, and Pagones' lawyer spent years trying to get Sharpton to pay the judgment. To this day, Sharpton refuses to apologize to Pagones, who said he received death threats.
Newsweek says Sharpton "has been right much more often than wrong in his choice of causes." Obviously, this offsets the numerous times Sharpton, without due cause, screamed and blustered and bullied, pulling race cards from every pocket.
The piece barely touches on or completely ignores many items on his long list of schemes, fraudulent race-based hustles and scandals. Nothing about the FBI surveillance video of Sharpton arranging a cocaine/money laundering deal with a mobster-turned-informant. Nothing about Sharpton calling the first black mayor of New York a "n---er whore." (With typical gall, Sharpton later pushed to "ban" the use of the N-word.)
Newsweek says, "His enemies sometimes charge, bizarrely, that he has chosen a career as a peripatetic community activist for the money." Bizarrely? Nothing about how he signed with one of Hollywood's biggest agencies, which then shopped a sitcom starring Sharpton, called "Al in the Family." Nothing about his gig as a paid pitchman for LoanMax, a "predatory lender" that cannot legally operate in New York.
Crown Heights tells us everything one needs to know about Sharpton. A 7-year-old black child was accidentally struck and killed by a car driven by a Hasidic Jew in that section of Brooklyn, N.Y. It sparked three days of riots, resulting in a hundred people injured and the stabbing death of a young Jewish scholar, who was surrounded by a mob chanting, "Kill the Jew." Sharpton fanned the flames, leading some 400 protesters through a Jewish section of Crown Heights. He said: "The world will tell us that (the child) was killed by accident. ... What type of city do we have that would allow politics to rise above the blood of innocent babies? ... Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. ... All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise. Pay for your deeds." Later he said, "If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house."
Want a different perspective on the reverend? A November 2004 Village Voice article led with this title: "On a New High, Sharpton Hits a New Low: TV's Democratic Minister of 'Moral Values' Takes a Hypocritical Plunge."
Newsweek: "He has lived an upper-middle-class, although hardly opulent, life." The Village Voice: Sharpton and family lived in "their enormous Brooklyn mansion."
Newsweek: "(Sharpton) is one preacher who has managed to negotiate the temptations of fame untouched by sexual scandal." The Village Voice, on Sharpton's apparent extramarital relationship with a married employee: "The ... saga is not just a question of sex; it's a window into the dysfunction of Sharpton's universe."
So what, indeed, does Sharpton's "longevity say about race in America"? It says that Newsweek and others who should know better apply a different and lower standard of acceptability for a black race-hustler like Sharpton than for a white race-hustler like David Duke. And, assuming Sharpton ever mattered, does he now?
Blacks and whites were asked by Gallup in 2003 to name "the most important national leader in the black community today." Four percent of blacks and 2 percent of whites named Sharpton.
On some things, it appears, whites and blacks are not so far apart. Perhaps the Rev. Al achieved some racial unity after all.